Bamako 2002 Conference
African Languages and Internet workshop
Within the framework of the Regional Conference Bamako 2002 on "Africa and the World Summit of Information Society", the African languages and Internet workshop took place at the Palais des Congres, Bamako, (Mali), on May 26, 2002.
President: His Excellency the Minister Adama SAMMASSEKOU, President of ACALAN
Moderateur: Ms Aida Opoku-mensah (Economic Commission on Africa), Ethiopia.
Rapporteur: Mr Maxime Z SOMÉ (Director of RECLA Review (Research on Africa languages, literatures and Civilizations), France.
His Excellency Minister Adama SAMMASSEKOU opened the session by a speech in mandingue and closed it in English.
Ms Aïda OPOKU MENSAH directed the workshop with a high quality of synthesis of the interventions and a great control on the distribution of the time granted to the participants.
CURRENT SITUATION OF THE AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND THE WEB
A document on African Academy of Languages entitled "special Bulletin, ACALAN, January 2002" was distributed at the beginning of the workshop. It is related to the current missions of ACALAN and the various stages to undergo to set it as a panafrican structure.
After reviewing the issues related to the status, the roles and the places of the languages in the process of endogenous development of African countries and the various opportunities offered by the new information and communication technologies, the document gives the strategy to be set up for the use and valorization of African languages and cultures in the new information society.
Presentations were made by representatives of ACALAN, BPI (Canada), CYBERSOFT (Ethiopia), IDN Committee of ICANN (Senegal), AINC (Morocco), MINC, AfriMINC, ECA, Intergovernmental Agency of Francophony, National Polytechnic Higher School of Yaounde (Cameroon). The speeches were followed by questions and comments from the participants.
In addition to the presentations mentioned above, the President of ACALAN insisted, in one hand, on the need to set up the panafrican structure and, on the other hand, for experts (linguists and data processing specialists) to collaborate to ensure the presence of the African languages in the development of African countries.
An additional meeting was proposed among software/software packages producers of the North and of the South during the Bamako Conference.
Regarding the incongruity for Africa to continue expressing themselves through non African languages, the experts insisted on the need to appropriate african languages and Internet as a strength for social and economic development.
2.1 Economic aspects
- To create a HAMI (Highway of African Multilingual Information) fund intended to finance the production and maintenance of Web sites in African languages.
- To create a vocational training fund for African data processing specialists, to continuously train Linux system administrators whose tasks are to configure, support and maintain the Linux web hosting servers sites in African languages.
- To assign contracts of data processing and Web sites support to African data-processing companies in order to support their economic activity, promote them, stimulate their growth and ensure a greater sustainability of specialized human resources working in Africa.
2.2 Technological aspects
- That the States of Africa work out a strategic plan in order to assume their data-processing transition and the implementation of new international UCS/JUC standard in their respective African data-processing environment.
- That all the African initiatives on African languages coding for computerization be listed in order to detect the communalities difficulties, encountered problems and solutions.
- That the LABTIC created with the support of AIF in the countries of the South become genuine platforms of confrontation, test and validation of the characters standards of the African languages.
- That the creation of national structures and associations for applications development in national languages be encouraged by the international organizations to promote an African Dot Force whose essential mission would be to ensure the convergence of the present standards in African languages (SIL, BPI, etc.) applications towards an integrating generic standard.
- For all the national and inter-official languages of Africa, that the Africanist specialists set up the list of the African composite characters requiring a sequence from 2 to 3 UCS-2 codes as UCS/JUC encoding. That this list of African characters be officially submitted to the committees of ISO standardization so that these African characters would be added to UCS/JUC standard as "a precomposed African character".
- That the data processing specialists and other Africanist specialists act together in order to elaborate, to standardize and propose to the concerned African States 8-bits character sets allowing the support of Latin characters of the African continent languages. These 8-bits character sets can be considered as endogenous stages of transition towards the international UCS/JUC standard.
- That the data processing specialists and other Africanist specialists act together in order to elaborate, to standardize and propose to the concerned African States keyboard drivers and unified conventions to key in African characters for all African and transborder languages of African countries.
2.3 Political aspects
- That all the Member States of African Unity sign the charter of ACALAN;
- That the Member States quickly commit themselves in setting up the panafrican structure of ACALAN;
- That ACALAN become an ideal framework to put in synergy all the initiatives in the field of languages.
- That to really develop the existing human potentialities and to really increase the number of potential users of new information and communication technologies,
- At primary school level, at least each Member State should set up a true linguistic policy with the introduction of African languages into the educational system from the two first years as a medium to be gradually replaced by the official language which would become a teaching language,
- At secondary and higher school levels, each Member State should introduce into the educational system the teaching of one or several African languages like dynamic languages.
- That the OAU/AU through its agency, ACALAN, take the responsibility to follow-up administrative and political issues with the ISO standard technical committees in order to add and adopt the new list of the "precomposed African characters" in UCS/JUC standard.
- That OAU/AU make the effort for the linguists, the literacy specialists, data processing specialists and researchers to participate in the setting up and animation of the panafrican project installation of ACALAN.
- That the African States, through their national standardization organization, officially adopt national data-processing standards for 8-bits character sets according to their respective national and inter-states languages.
- That the African States, through their national standardization organization, officially adopt national and inter-states data-processing standards for African keyboard drivers.
- Once these standards of African 8-bits character sets will be definitively adopted as national standard, undertake administrative and political actions towards ISO to add these new African character sets, as international standard, among the list of the other 8-bits character sets of the ISO¨C8859 series.
- That the African States and their data-processing companies, to digest and establish UCS/JUC standard, also share their UCS/JUC experiences while collaborating more narrowly with other States involved in language issues and similar plurilinguism, for example: Vietnamese in liaison with French; Kampuchean languages with French; other Asian languages with certain African languages.
- That the African States share their UCS/JUC experiences while collaborating more narrowly, on the techno-polical plan, with the different States of Asia, Latin America and Australia whose national languages are under represented in the universe of the current Web.